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Inequity in Gender-Neutral Policies for Parents

Equality doesn’t always imply equity – this fact forms the foundation of the work we do towards gender equality in academia. However, not all well-meaning equal opportunities policies have the effect of ensuring equity among genders. As the study “Equal but Inequitable: Who Benefits from Gender-Neutral Tenure Clock Stopping Policies?” by Antecol, Bedard, and Stearns shows, men are far more likely to benefit from certain family friendliness policies than women are.

The study looks at so-called “clock-stopping” policies at universities in the US, in which new parents can extend the typical seven-year period of evaluation by a year or more if they had children. Many universities have adopted gender-neutral clock-stopping policies, so that any new parent can take advantage of the chance to extend their evaluation period regardless of their gender.

A seemingly fair policy that has jaw-droppingly disparate results. The authors found that a male researcher’s likelihood of receiving tenure at his first job increased by 19.4% when he used a clock stop. On the other hand, a female researcher’s likelihood of receiving tenure decreased by 22.4%.

Why might this be? The authors note that men published more in top-five journals after these policies were implemented. This indicates that men use their extra year to work, whereas women may use the time to care for their child – a hypothesis that is supported by our knowledge about the disproportionate amount of childcare work that women take on.

The study provides a good reminder to examine our equal opportunities policies closely. To read the full results, you can access Antecol, Bedard, and Stearns’s study here.

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